Behavior occurs either for the individual, or in the context of a group (e.g., friendsinfluence what kinds of clothes a person wears) or an organization (people on the jobmake decisions as to which products the firm should use).
Consumer behavior involves the use and disposal of products as well as the study of how they are purchased. Product use is often of great interest to the marketer,because this may influence how a product is best positioned or how we canencourage increased consumption. Since many environmental problems result fromproduct disposal (e.g., motor oil being sent into sewage systems to save therecycling fee, or garbage piling up at landfills) this is also an area of interest.
Consumer behavior involves services and ideas as well as tangible products.
The impact of consumer behavior on society is also of relevance. For example,aggressive marketing of high fat foods, or aggressive marketing of easy credit, mayhave serious repercussions for the national health and economy.
There are four main applications of consumer behavior:
The most obvious is for
—i.e., for making better marketingcampaigns. For example, by understanding that consumers are more receptive tofood advertising when they are hungry, we learn to schedule snack advertisementslate in the afternoon. By understanding that new products are usually initiallyadopted by a few consumers and only spread later, and then only gradually, to therest of the population, we learn that (1) companies that introduce new productsmust be well financed so that they can stay afloat until their products become acommercial success and (2) it is important to please initial customers, since they willin turn influence many subsequent customers’ brand choices.
A second application is
. In the 1980s, Accutane, a near miracle cure foracne, was introduced. Unfortunately, Accutane resulted in severe birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Although physicians were instructed to warn their femalepatients of this, a number still became pregnant while taking the drug. To getconsumers’ attention, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) took the step of requiring that very graphic pictures of deformed babies be shown on the medicinecontainers.
involves getting ideas across to consumers rather than sellingsomething. Marty Fishbein, a marketing professor, went on sabbatical to work for theCenters for Disease Control trying to reduce the incidence of transmission of diseasesthrough illegal drug use. The best solution, obviously, would be if we could getillegal drug users to stop. This, however, was deemed to be infeasible. It was alsodetermined that the practice of sharing needles was too ingrained in the drugculture to be stopped. As a result, using knowledge of consumer attitudes, Dr.Fishbein created a campaign that encouraged the cleaning of needles in bleachbefore sharing them, a goal that was believed to be more realistic.
As a final benefit, studying consumer behavior should make us better consumers.Common sense suggests, for example, that if you buy a 64 liquid ounce bottle of laundry detergent, you should pay less per ounce than if you bought two 32 ouncebottles. In practice, however, you often pay a size
by buying the larger